A Portrait of the Artist as Trash...

Xilola Gaipova is a Brooklyn raised student at the Fashion Institute of Technology, and a super cool artist. As a Senior majoring in Photography, she has spent the past year working on her thesis project. Her thesis project is louder than a few eye catching images, it  makes the boldest of statements about our wasteful habits as humans, living in a very consumeristic city. With this project an individual, whose portrait is projected onto a canvas of their waste, can realize the impact they are creating on a weekly basis. It’s a truly inspiring way to use art to communicate a big problem. With this kind of project viewers can become more aware, mindful, and ultimately, feel empowered to make changes. We asked Xilola a few questions to get her talking about her inspiration, process, and thoughts on waste.

Tell us a bit about your thesis project!

As a photographer it is my job to describe people. A single photograph is meant to show who a person is and how she wants to be portrayed, through a combination of possession, demeanor, and self description. This project focuses on things that give away at their personality, that they aren’t consciously aware of. It focuses on something that no one else gets to know about them, their consumer habits through their garbage.

What inspired you to focus your thesis project on waste?

Even though recycling has been engraved in our culture, we still produce waste that ends up in landfills. The waste we accumulate is still in great quantity, especially in a fast paced environment like New York. I've come across artists, like Vik Muniz using waste as part of their art work, but I wanted to take it further by physically incorporating it with my photography.


Photo of Vik Muniz’s wasteland project that uses garbage in Brazil’s largest landfill to make portraits

Photo of Vik Muniz’s wasteland project that uses garbage in Brazil’s largest landfill to make portraits


How do you display photos on the trash?

The waste, collected over a span of one week, is bound together through casting. The photograph, a portrait of the individual the waste belongs to, is projected onto the casting.



What are your personal thoughts about how much waste we produce as humans?

Off course it's impossible to produce no waste, but it is definitely something we should all be conscious of. Being conscious would not only reduce our waste, but make us more aware of making healthier choices.

Have you always been environmentally conscious. If not, what sparked it within you?

I wasn't always conscious of how much waste I produced or where it went. It was more of an "out of sight, out of mind" approach. Seeing other artists, as well as taking a Psychology for Sustainability class, I became more conscious of how much waste there is and how our thoughts and views contribute to how much waste we make.

Do you have any tips on how to produce less waste?

As a New Yorker, I used to eat out a lot, always taking it to go, ending up with garbage that sometimes wasn’t even recyclable. It could be as simple as making home made food, which also saved me plenty of money, and led me to make healthier food choices. Other things I did was carry a personal bottle to fill up, feed my boyfriend’s dog leftovers, compost fruit and vegetable scraps, and use personal grocery bags. Shopping  from farmer's markets is another way, as things don't come in plastic or wrappers. With some research, anyone can find different ways to reduce garbage, and make choices that are healthy even for their own mind and body.

Be sure to check out her final presentation in the Dubinsky Center Lobby at the Fashion Institute of Technology on May 10th!  


-Written by Julia Valencikova